Dozens of Arlington taxi drivers drove around Arlington this morning with their flashers on and horns honking, protesting county policies that they say do not adequately protect them from cab companies and competitors.
This is at least the fourth taxi driver protest directed at the Arlington County Board since last September. The drivers, organized by Arlington United Taxi Operators, Tenants & Workers United and Virginia New Majority, are asking the Board to impose new regulations on taxi companies that would protect drivers from termination. They are also asking for increased regulation of UberX, which they say is “decimating the taxi industry.”
Protest organizers said about 75 taxi drivers met in Pentagon City this morning and decided to ride around the county during the morning rush hour, slowing down traffic in hopes of raising awareness to their cause. They drove from Pentagon City to Ballston, where they handed out flyers at the Ballston Metro Station, before driving down Fairfax Drive and Clarendon Blvd. They distributed more flyers at the Clarendon and Rosslyn Metro stations.
“Unregulated companies, such as UberX, are allowed to work in Arlington while ignoring insurance, safety, background checks and pricing rules and regulations,” the flyers state. “This is decimating the taxi industry and putting the public at risk. It’s UberDangerous!”
Jon Liss, who heads both Virginia New Majority and Tenants and Workers United, said the drivers are pushing the County Board to adopt “a ‘dispute resolution’ process so that drivers are not subject to arbitrary firing or discipline.” Liss said there were no incidents of note during the traffic slowdown.
Earlier this month, the same groups organized a rally at the County Board’s offices in Courthouse in protest of UberX, which launched in the D.C. area last summer under the slogan “Better, Faster, Cheaper… than a taxi.” Red Top Cab reported that dispatched rides had decreased 5-10 percent since 2012, a drop they attribute in part to on-demand ridesharing services like UberX, Sidecar and Lyft.
Last fall, cab drivers asked the Board for a “drivers bill of rights, protections against being fired without cause and the right to purchase their taxi license directly from the county.” The county only issues cab licenses to cab companies, not to individual drivers, an arrangement drivers feel puts them at a disadvantage.
The taxi drivers’ flyer asks individuals to contact County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, giving the chairman’s county phone and email address. In the fall, Board member Mary Hynes told ARLnow.com, “the system exists for a reason… the majority of the Board has not been in favor of many of [the drivers’] proposals in the past.”